In 20 years of award-winning picture books, non-white people made up just 12% of main characters



Early childhood books shortlisted over the years.
Helen Caple, Author provided

Helen Caple, UNSW and Ping Tian, University of Sydney

A highlight for Australian children’s literature is the announcements of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year award winners. This year’s winners will be announced on Friday October 16 — right before the start of CBCA’s Book Week on October 19.

Making the shortlist brings great exposure for the books and their creators. The shortlisted books are put on special display in public school libraries and supermarket shelves. They are even made into teaching resources, suggesting an exploration of the book’s themes, for instance.

Crucially, award lists contribute to the “canon” of literary works that become widely read. This canon is distributed through libraries, schools and homes. Sometimes, benevolent relatives give them as gifts.

We investigated the diversity — including ethnicity, gender and sexuality — of the 118 shortlisted books in the early childhood category of Book of the Year between 2001 and 2020. We also examined diversity among the 103 authors and illustrators who have made the shortlist over the past 20 years.

Our yet unpublished study found most (88%) human main characters in the shortlisted books were white; none of the main characters were Asian, Black or Middle Eastern.

Why diversity matters

The CBCA was formed in 1945, as a national not-for-profit organisation promoting children’s literary experiences and supporting Australian writers and illustrators. The first awards began in 1946.

There were originally three categories for Book of the Year: older readers, younger readers and picture book.

In 2001, “early childhood” was added as a category. This was for picture books for children up to six years old.

Picture books are significant for not only developing early literacy skills, but also for the messages and values they convey about society. They help children learn about their world.




Read more:
Children’s books must be diverse, or kids will grow up believing white is superior


The diversity children see represented in that world affects their sense of belonging and inclusion. At this age, cultural values and bias settle in and become the foundation for how we develop. These values and biases have a profound influence on our successes and struggles in our adult lives.

A positive for gender diversity, but not ethnicity

We used visual content analysis to examine ethnic diversity, we well as gender, disability, sexuality and linguistic variation in the 118 early childhood category shortlisted books — between 2001 and 2020.

The cover of picture book Go Home Cheeky Animals
Illustrator Dion Beasley.
Allen & Unwin

We also examined diversity among the 103 authors and illustrators who have made the shortlist over the past 20 years. Only one person — Alywarr illustrator Dion Beasley, from the Northern Territory, and winner in 2017 for Go Home Cheeky Animals — identifies as Indigenous.

Female authors and illustrators, however, were more represented (66%) than male (34%).

Looking at the picture books, we first identified four major types of characters: human (52.5%), animal (41.5%), object (4.4%) and imaginary (1.4%).

We then distinguished between main characters and those in supporting roles that make up the story world in which the main characters act.

One of the most encouraging findings was the gender parity among main characters. We identified 52 solo human main characters across all 118 books. Fifty-one of these are children, with 25 boy and 24 girl main characters (two main characters were not identified by gender).




Read more:
Five tips to make school bookshelves more diverse and five books to get you started


This placed boys and girls equally in the role of the protagonist, which stands in contrast to previous research looking at best-selling picture books.

But in terms of ethnicity, the human main characters are overwhelmingly white (88%). There are just two Indigenous main characters and one who is multiracial. There have been no Asian, Black or Middle Eastern main characters.

Looking at the wider story world, supporting characters are still overwhelmingly white. But this world does marginally include characters of Asian, Black and Middle Eastern heritage. Overall, human characters appear in 85 (72%) of the 118 books.

White characters appear in 74 of these books, and only nine books have no white characters. Non-white characters appear in a total of 18 books (21%).

Our results for ethnic diversity don’t correlate well with the latest Australian census data (from 2016). The cultural heritage of Australia’s population is described as: 76.8% white, 10% East and Southeast Asian, 4.6% South Asian, 3.1% West Asian and Arabic, 2.8% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, 1.5% Maori and Pacific Islander, 0.7% African, 0.6% Latin American.

The 2020 Early Childhood Book of the Year shortlist.
CBCA/Screenshot

The CBCA early childhood shortlist minimally represents other forms of diversity. We see only two main characters living with a disability and no characters who are sexually and gender diverse.

Other types of diversity

Linguistic variation is also minimal, in only four books, which does not reflect the linguistic diversity of the wider Australian population.

In response to our queries regarding their judging criteria, the CBCA said:

we do not select books for entry into our awards. It is the publishers and creators who select the books for entry. Our main criterion is literary merit, we do not actively exclude diversity, themes or genre.

Only two of the six 2020 shortlisted books in the early childhood category have human main characters. And these are both white.

The age of zero to six years is a crucial stage of development. It is important for young readers to see people and surroundings that are like their own to cultivate a sense of belonging. It is equally important to see a different world they are not familiar with.




Read more:
5 reasons I always get children picture books for Christmas


If award-winning books sit at the top of reading lists, these books also need to embrace and reflect the full and rich diversity that makes up our country.The Conversation

Helen Caple, Associate Professor, UNSW and Ping Tian, Lecturer , University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Children’s books must be diverse, or kids will grow up believing white is superior



Shutterstock

Helen Joanne Adam, Edith Cowan University; Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Edith Cowan University; Libby Jackson-Barrett, Edith Cowan University, and Robert Stanly Somerville, Edith Cowan University

Global support for the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t only about standing up against the injustice done to George Floyd, or Indigenous Australians in custody. People are also standing up against the entrenched racism that leads to a careless approach towards the lives of people who aren’t white.

Research shows 75% of Australians hold an implicit bias against Indigenous Australians, seeing them negatively, even if this is unconscious. Children absorb this bias, which becomes entrenched due to messages in the media and in books, and continues to play out at school and the broader community.

Making sure children have access to books showing diversity is one step in breaking the cycle that leads to entrenched racism.

Children develop bias from an early age

Children develop their sense of identity and perceptions of others from a very early age – as early as three months old. Because of this, young children are particularly vulnerable to the messages they see and hear in the media and in books.

Research over many years has shown books can empower, include and validate the way children see themselves. But books can also exclude, stereotype and oppress children’s identities. Minority groups are particularly at risk of misrepresentation and stereotyping in books.

First Nations groups are commonly absent from children’s books. Excluding the viewpoints, histories and suffering of First Nations Peoples can misrepresent history, and teach kids a white-washed version of the past.




Read more:
Captain Cook ‘discovered’ Australia, and other myths from old school text books


A world of children’s books dominated by white authors, white images and white male heroes, creates a sense of white superiority. This is harmful to the worldviews and identities of all children.

Sharing stories through books

Evidence shows sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories helps break down stereotypes and prejudice. And this, importantly, helps empower Aboriginal children and improve their educational engagement and outcomes.

But research suggests many classrooms have books that are monocultural literature, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander books are notably absent.

There are some encouraging signs, with an increase in the publication of books by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We are also seeing bookshops and publishers reporting a rise in demand for books on race and racism.

Books can empower and validate children’s identities. But they can also make them feel inferior.
Shutterstock

This can also help adults become informed about Australia’s colonial history. Reading these books can help challenge their own unconscious biases and misunderstandings.




Read more:
Bias starts early – most books in childcare centres have white, middle-class heroes


The challenge for teachers and parents is to access suitable children’s books and share them with the children in their care. We can use these stories as a foundation for conversations about culture and community.

This can help to drive change and support reconciliation.

Other ways of sharing diverse stories

Creating Books in Communities is a pilot project run by the State Library of Western Australia that helps create books with families about their everyday experiences. These books represent the families’ culture and language.

Projects like these are another way we can recognise and extend the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Another project, On Country Learning, involves children and teachers learning through culture alongside Aboriginal elders. A preliminary review of the program shows it enriches teacher knowledge and motivates all children to learn.

Reading and listening to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can help teachers gain important knowledge and understanding. This helps them effectively engage with and teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.




Read more:
9 tips teachers can use when talking about racism


And it helps them teach all students about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, histories and cultures.

To see real and lasting change children need everyday story books with heroes and characters that reflect their diverse backgrounds. To help this happen we can support groups such as the We Need Diverse Books Movement and LoveOZYA , which actively call for and promote diverse books for young people.

Affirmation of all children’s culture, language and identity at this pivotal time in world history is critical to the future of all our children.

Parents and teachers can source Aboriginal literature from websites such as: Magabala Books, IAD Press, Aboriginal Studies Press, Fremantle Press, UWA Publishing, BlackWords, Batchelor Institute Press.The Conversation

Helen Joanne Adam, Senior Lecturer in Literacy Education and Children’s Literature: Course Coordinator Master of Teaching (Primary), Edith Cowan University; Caroline Barratt-Pugh, Professor of Early Childhood, Edith Cowan University; Libby Jackson-Barrett, Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University, and Robert Stanly Somerville, Head of Teaching and Learning, Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Australian Indigenous Education and Research, Associate Professor, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

P is for Pandemic: kids’ books about coronavirus



NSW Health

Shih-Wen Sue Chen, Deakin University; Kristine Moruzi, Deakin University, and Paul Venzo, Deakin University

With remarkable speed, numerous children’s books have been published in response to the COVID-19 global health crisis, teaching children about coronavirus and encouraging them to protect themselves and others.

Children’s literature has a long history of exploring difficult topics, with original fairy tales often including gruesome imagery to teach children how to behave. Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the wolf in a warning to young ladies to be careful of men. Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out by birds as punishment for wickedness.

More recently, picture books have dealt with issues including September 11, the Holocaust, environmental issues and death.

But this wave of coronavirus books is unique, being produced during a crisis rather than in its aftermath.

Many have been written and illustrated in collaboration between public health organisations, doctors and storytellers, including Hi. This is Coronavirus and The Magic Cure both produced in Australia.

These books explore practical ways young children can avoid infection and transmission, and provide strategies parents can use to help children cope with anxiety. Some books feature adult role models, but the majority feature children as heroes.

The best of these books address children not just as people who might fall ill, but as active agents in the fight against COVID-19.

Our top picks

Coronavirus: A Book for Children

Written in consultation with an infectious diseases specialist and illustrated by Axel Scheffler of The Gruffalo, this nonfiction picture book offers children information about transmission, symptoms and the possibility of a cure, reassuring readers that doctors and scientists are working on developing a vaccine.

The last few pages answer the question “what can I do to help?”

Coronavirus: A Book for Children shows a diversity of characters taking action to manage the effects of the virus. Children are told to practice good hygiene, not to disturb their parents while they are working from home and keep up with their schoolwork.

It is also hopeful: reinforcing the idea that the combination of scientific research and practical action will lead to a point when “this strange time will be over”.

My Hero is You! How kids can fight COVID-19

Written and illustrated by Helen Patuck, My Hero is You! is an initiative of a global reference group on mental health, and is a great book for parents to read with their children.

Sara, daughter of a scientist, and Ario, an orange dragon, fly around the world to teach children about the coronavirus.

Ario teaches the children when they feel afraid or unsafe, they can try to imagine a safe place in their minds.

Based on a global survey of children and adults about how they were coping with COVID-19, My Hero is You! translates the results of this comprehensive survey into a reassuring story for kids experiencing fear and anxiety. It also acknowledges the global nature of the health crisis, showing children they are not alone.

The Princess in Black and the Case of the Coronavirus

The Princess in Black is an existing series, with seven books published since 2014 and over one million copies sold. In the books, Princess Magnolia enlists children to help with a problem she cannot defeat alone: here, of course, that problem is coronavirus.

For fans of the series, Magnolia and her pals are familiar characters encouraging readers to solve the problem of coronavirus by washing their hands, staying at home, and keeping their distance.

The Princess in Black shows a deft use of humour to introduce children to complex ideas in a familiar and friendly manner.

Little heroes

Children’s books have often sought to entertain and educate children at the same time. The immediacy of these books, with their practical solutions and strategies for children to manage fears and anxieties about sickness and isolation, is a phenomenon we haven’t seen before.

With free online distribution and simple messages, these books present children with individual actions that have both personal and collective benefits.

Importantly, the heroes identified in these stories include children themselves. Their fears are acknowledged, but at the same time they are told they can fight the virus successfully.


A frequently updated list of children’s books on the pandemic is available from the New York School Library System’s COVID-19 page.The Conversation

Shih-Wen Sue Chen, Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature, Deakin University; Kristine Moruzi, Research fellow in the School of Communication & Creative Arts, Deakin University, and Paul Venzo, , Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Free Sesame Street Ebooks


The link below is to an article that looks at Sesame Street ebooks that are currently available for free, including Kindle.

For more visit:
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/100-sesame-street-ebooks-available-for-free

Start a tradition of choosing picture books to share with children in your life



More recently, the study of reading has turned to examine the social and emotional benefits of storybook reading.
(Shutterstock)

Sandra Martin-Chang, Concordia University and Stephanie Kozak, Concordia University

It started with Frederick, by Leo Lionni — a beautifully illustrated story about the importance of the arts.

‘I am gathering words,’ Frederick the mouse tells his harried mouse community.
Penguin Random House

Or it began with The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski — an exquisite storybook about a sullen carver who is transformed by the love of a little boy.

These are some of our own first favourite books. That was before we understood the benefits behind storybook reading. But we gave the books to our nieces and nephews based on our pure appreciation of the stories themselves. And thus began family traditions of carefully selecting, signing and gifting cherished books to one another.

Social and emotional benefits

For educators, the importance of storybook reading in the home is well documented. Reading to children is associated with a heap of benefits, including more expansive expressive and receptive vocabularies, better language comprehension and better early math abilities. More recently, the study of reading has turned to examine the social and emotional benefits provided by storybook reading.

Different themes explored by storybooks can develop aspects of socio-emotional understanding, because a well-written story can transport the reader into fictional worlds and let them experience emotions by proxy.

Parents who are more familiar with storybooks (presumably through reading them with their children), have children who are better at identifying and separating their own emotions and desires from the emotions and desires of others. Such social and cognitive skills are part of developing towards what psychologists call a “theory of mind” — gaining the ability to understand that other people’s thoughts and beliefs may be different from your own, and to consider why.

Books may help children develop such skills and insights because the plots often focus on social relationships between characters and contain rich language related to feelings and identity formation. Books can also encourage children to think of ways to enrich the lives of those around them, thereby enriching their own.

Of course, it’s not enough to simply own many books; it’s the frequency of shared storybook reading with the quality of time that matters. But whether books are borrowed from the local library, or part of your own collection, having access to them in your home is a good place to start.

Here are some of our favourites.


I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love by Nancy Tillman.
(Macmillan)

Books that explore themes of love and community: Porcupine’s Bad Day by Emilie Corbiere is an English- and Ojibway-langugage account of how porcupine’s friends help him move beyond his grumpy mood as he tries to sleep in the daytime — and to understand they all share the forest. Nancy Tillman’s I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love explores how intimacy and love are tied to recognition and acceptance, told through the delight of animal disguises and a woman narrator. Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper narrates the love of a boy and his grandpa against the backdrop of the moon’s ever-present mystery.


‘The Book of Mistakes,’ by Corinna Luyken.
(Dial Books)

Books that celebrate the occasional misstep in creativity: The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, and Ish or The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. The Dot is about a schoolgirl, Vashti, who goes from believing she can’t draw to a celebration of self-expression and creativity — beginning with a dot. These books would make wonderful gifts for the creative but cautious children in your lives.


‘Ada Twist, Scientist’ by Andrea Beaty.
(Abrams)

Books for young budding professionals: Andrea Beaty’s books, including Ada Twist, Scientist and Iggy Peck, Architect would make wonderful presents that showcase new worlds opening up through science and design, and that show children the road to success is often littered with road blocks that can be overcome.


‘What Do You Do With An Idea?’ by Kobi Yamada.
(Compendium)

Books that embrace challenge: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada is an encouraging book suitable for all ages. After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat contains themes of perseverance and overcoming fears.


‘A Child of Books,’ by Oliver Jeffers.
(Candlewick Press)

Books that celebrate themselves: The Good Little Book by Kyo MacLear, and It’s a Book by Lane Smith are stories about the love for reading, and the value of a good book. These support the message that reading is a beautiful thing. A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston is a lyrical celebration of a childhood filled with books.


‘Chester,’ by Mélanie Watt.
(Kids Can Press)

Books that don’t take themselves too seriously: Chester by Mélanie Watt,
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak, Oddsockosaurus by Zanib Mian and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen all provide a shared giggle between adult and child. Books like these reinforce the value that reading is a fun and intrinsically enjoyable activity.


Above we’ve included some of our favorite titles, but there is no one perfect book. We encourage you to spend some time talking to your local bookshop staff or librarians to find titles that will resonate in your family.

The psychosocial and educational benefits from shared storybook reading do not depend on whether the books are bought or borrowed or whether they’re new or used. All you need are books with convincing characters, good conversations and a place to snuggle up and read.

[ Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ]The Conversation

Sandra Martin-Chang, Professor, Department of Education, Concordia University and Stephanie Kozak, PhD Candidate, Concordia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

5 reasons I always get children picture books for Christmas



Children who love being read to are more likely to find learning to read easier.
from shutterstock.com

Kym Simoncini, University of Canberra

Christmas is just around the corner. If you’re wondering what to get your child, your friends’ children, your nieces, nephews or basically any very young person in your life –  I highly recommend picture books.

Many people can remember a favourite book when they were a kid. Some of my favourites were the Berenstain Bears with Papa Bear trying, unsuccessfully, to teach his children how to ride a bike or gather honey.

Sadly, a 2011 report from the UK showed the number of young people who say they own a book is decreasing. The report also showed a clear relationship between receiving books as presents and reading ability.

Children who said they had never been given a book as a present were more likely to be reading below the expected level for their age.

Most people can remember a favourite book when they were kids.
The Berenstain Bears/Screenshot

There are lots of benefits of reading aloud to young children, including developing children’s language and print awareness. These include knowing that the squiggles on the page represent words, and that the words tell a story.

Such knowledge gives children a head start when they go on to reading at school.

1. Reading to kids increases their vocabulary

Research shows books have a greater variety of words than conversations. But it also suggests the conversations had during reading matter most.

Adults should discuss ideas in books with children, as they occur, as opposed to just reading a book from start to finish. Talking about the pictures, or what has happened, can lead to rich conversations and enhance language development.

The more words you know, the simpler it is to recognise them and comprehend the meaning of the text. Children who read more become better readers and more successful students.

It’s important to have conversations with your kids about what you’re reading.
from shutterstock.com

2. Books can increase children’s maths and science skills

Picture books show children maths and science concepts through a story, which helps kids grasp them easier.

Some books (like How Many Legs and How Big is a Million) explicitly explore concepts such as numbers. Other stories, like the Three Little Pigs, have concepts embedded in them. Children can learn about the properties of materials when adults talk about the strength of hay, sticks and bricks.

A study in the Netherlands found kindergarten children who were read picture books, and were engaged in discussions of the maths concepts in the books, increased their maths performance, compared to a control group of children who weren’t read these books.

Three Little Pigs can teach children about the properties of hay, bricks and sticks.
from shutterstock.com

Early Learning STEM Australia has created a booklist which gives parents and teachers ideas for books that contain STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ideas. These include:

  • They All Saw a Cat, which shows the perspectives of different animals

  • Lucy in the City, where a cat loses her way home and an owl helps her

  • Dreaming Up, which contrasts children’s constructions with notable works of architecture.

3. Books are mirrors and windows

Nearly 30 years ago, children’s literature professor, Rudine Sims Bishop, wrote how books can be windows, through which we see other worlds. These windows can become sliding doors when we use our imaginations and become part of them.

Books can also be mirrors, when we see our own lives and experiences in them. In this way, they reaffirm our place in the world.

Books can help kids see into other worlds.
from shutterstock.com

Children need both types of books to understand people come from different cultures and have different ways of thinking and doing things. Books can show that children of all cultures are valued in society.

Children who never see themselves represented in books may feel marginalised. Unfortunately, the majority of books feature white children or animals, so many children only experience books as windows.

Examples of books that show the lives of Indigenous children include Big Rain Coming and Kick with My Left Foot (which is also a great book about left and right).

4. Books can counter stereotypes

Children learn gender stereotypes from a very young age. Research shows by the age of six, girls are already less likely than boys to think girls are “really, really smart” and they begin to avoid activities thought to be for “really, really smart” children.

Picture books can challenge these and other stereotypes. Reading books that portray atypical behaviours such as girls playing with trucks or with girls in traditional male roles such as being doctors, scientists or engineers, can change children’s beliefs and activities.

Iggy Peck, Architect; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Ada Twist, Scientist are very popular. And Sofia Valdez, Future Prez has just been released.

Children who have more books at home end up more educated.
from shutterstock.com

The City of Monash in Melbourne has created a list of children’s picture books that promote gender equality and challenge gender stereotypes. This includes one of my favourite books, The Paperbag Princess, who saves herself from a dragon and decides not to marry the prince after he complains she is a mess.

5. Just having more books makes you more educated

A study that looked at data from 27 countries, including Australia, found children growing up in homes with many books got three years more education than children from bookless homes. This was independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class.

Adults need to model good reading habits and their enjoyment of reading. Giving children a love of reading can be the best present we ever give.The Conversation

Kym Simoncini, Associate professor Early Childhood and Primary Education, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

British children’s books are still too white – responsibility to change them is on all involved



Only 7% of children’s books published in 2018 featured a character of colour.
Shutterstock

Karen Sands-OConnor, Newcastle University

Cuddling up in a big chair with a good book, either with a familiar adult reading to you or starting the first chapter of a book on your own is a fundamental part of childhood – emotionally as well as intellectually. Reading about people who are like yourself affects both your self-image and the likelihood you will enjoy reading. Becoming a habitual reader, in turn, affects your life options. Reading about people different from yourself also encourages empathy and cultural understanding.

But if the world of children’s books doesn’t include people who look like you, it is difficult to feel welcomed into reading, as the writer Darren Chetty, among others, has pointed out. And recent research suggests that child readers, especially, but not exclusively, readers of colour, are being seriously shortchanged.

Pigeonholed or sidelined

There simply aren’t enough authors and illustrators from diverse backgrounds being published, as academic Melanie Ramdarshan Bold pointed out in the 2019 Book Trust report on representation of people of colour among children’s book authors and illustrators. In fact, between 2007 and 2017, fewer than 2% of children’s book creators were British people of colour.

Authors of colour often feel isolated within the publishing industry. They are frequently encouraged to focus on racism and similar problem narratives, a recent report from Arts Council England (ACE) found. They do not have the freedom (as many white British authors do) to write across the broad spectrum of children’s literature genres if they want to be published.

While about a third of school-age children come from a minority ethnic background, the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education found that only 7% of children’s books published in Britain in 2018 had a Black, Asian or minority ethnic character. With so few diverse children’s books being published, these books are deeply important.

When characters of colour appear in children’s books, they are rarely the protagonist with the agency to effect change. Recent books sometimes still depict characters of colour as “sidekicks” who support and affirm the white main character. Other times, the “diversity” in a book appears in the background only.

Characters are defined by their colour, which makes them irreconcilably “other”. Descriptive words of character features compare them to food or animals. Sometimes characters appear early on in a narrative, only to quickly disappear in favour of a refocus on the white character. These techniques can dehumanise people of colour.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie presents a Ted Talk on the danger of the single story, 2009.

Children’s nonfiction, including history and science, either ignores contributions of people of colour to British society or pigeonholes particular ethnic groups into certain spaces only – such as the history of British slavery (and very specifically not the history of Afro-Caribbean uprisings against British slavery).

In a single children’s book, this “sidelining” of people of colour may not matter. However, when it is the enduring norm, as Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie stressed in her 2009 Ted talk on the danger of a single story, it situates readers of colour on the sidelines, too. This affects the reader’s perception of who matters in books.

Working together for representation

While it would be easy to suggest that the problem lies with the British publishing industry alone, this is too simplistic. All people involved with children’s books need to participate in changing the narrative so that the books being published better represent the population and encourage all children to become readers, according to the ACE report.

This can be done in a variety of ways, and involves committed effort. Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, began dedicating some of its collecting efforts to culturally diverse children’s literature in 2015. This has resulted in the acquisition of materials relating to children’s books by the Guyanese-born British poets John Agard and Grace Nichols in 2019. The acquisition of diverse materials by a national museum is one way of indicating the importance of this material to Britain and to British children’s literature.

Another way of highlighting the critical importance of including all children in children’s books is through awards. The longest-running children’s book prizes, the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal, have never been awarded to a British author of colour. Following the commissioning of a diversity review of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) revised the judging criteria for the annual prizes. These new guidelines ask judges to consider representation within books as they are making selections. Other children’s book prizes, including the Little Rebels prize, focus on children’s literature that challenges the status quo in areas such as diversity.

These efforts, large and small, bring attention to children’s books with characters of colour that might otherwise slip under the book-buying public’s radar. And getting librarians, educators and parents, no matter what their ethnic, racial or cultural background, to buy books is critical.

Publishing is a market-driven industry. If books aren’t selling, publishers can make the case that there is no audience and therefore they do not need to publish more books with characters of colour. All children need to feel welcome in the book world, and all children need to understand the diversity of British society now and throughout history.The Conversation

Karen Sands-OConnor, British Academy Global Professor, Newcastle University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2019 Winner of the Klaus Flugge Prize


The link below is to an article reporting on the winner of the 2019 Klaus Flugge Prize for the most promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration, Jessica Love, for ‘Julian is a Mermaid.’

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2019/09/12/139109/love-wins-2019-klaus-flugge-prize/

In the UK, Jessica Love has won the £5000 (A$8990) Klaus Flugge Prize for most promising newcomer to children’s picture book illustration for Julian is a Mermaid